"Keep the Change:" Committee to discuss legislation aimed at addressing panhandling problem

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's Public Safety Committee on Thursday, January 28th will hear Milwaukee Common Council legislation that would establish a "Keep the Change" program aimed at addressing Milwaukee's panhandling problem.

Alderman Terry Witkowski, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said Milwaukee and other cities are seeing a growing number of panhandlers, especially individuals standing at intersections, near off-ramps and on medians asking for money.

“The problem is multidimensional, but it is definitely made worse by people giving the panhandlers easy money – money that most likely will be used for items that feed addiction. If we offer sensible alternative options and information about resources, we believe we can reduce the (panhandling) problem, and that is what ‘Keep the Change’ is about,” Witkowski said.

According to the resolution, studies have shown that donations given to panhandlers are frequently used to support drug and alcohol dependencies, and rarely result in any long-term improvement in the panhandlers’ quality of life.

“Keep the Change” aims to both reduce the number of panhandlers funding drug and alcohol dependencies through donations and to provide meaningful support for those who are affected by homelessness, Alderman Witkowski said.

The resolution directs the city's Department of Administration to establish “Keep the Change” to discourage donations to panhandlers. It will include the distribution of informational cards and a city website to act as a clearinghouse for resources for those affected by homelessness.

Specifically, “Keep the Change” would feature: